We are very pleased to be the recipient of a generous $35,000 grant from the Coby Foundation that will help fund a large textile conservation project. The Historical Society cares for a set of bed hangings made by Rachel (Dwight) Gould circa 1768. They are one of only two essentially complete bed hanging sets made in this area during this time. The bed hangings are on display in the Hancock-Clarke House, in the room where Dorothy Quincy and Lydia Hancock were staying when John Hancock was participating in the Provincial Congress in spring of 1775.
The goal is to preserve this historic and rare treasure so that the hangings can be viewed and enjoyed by visitors and researchers for generations to come. These bed hangings received remedial stabilization cleaning and on-site installation assistance in 2009, but now will receive a much more comprehensive treatment. The conservation work will be carried out by Deirdre Windsor of Windsor Conservation. In addition to working with Lexington Historical Society for the past decade, Deirdre completed the conservation project for the Mary Bulham bed hangings at Old York Historical Society in 2016-17.
The textile conservator proposes a comprehensive conservation treatment including vacuuming, cleaning, and stabilization. After the hangings are cleaned, areas with tears, weakened binding edges, weakened curtain loops, and deterioration will be addressed. Valances and the head cloth will be lined to offer structural support. After conservation, the bed hangings will be reinstalled with a historically accurate hanging system that provides the best support for long-term display.
The bed hangings are one of visitors’ and guides’ favorite items in the houses. Embroidered leaves, vines, flowers, and other motifs are still vibrant and beautiful. Visitors often express their admiration for the size and scope of the crewelwork, which took nine years to complete. Seeing the bed hangings in person with no physical barrier feels very intimate and personal. The hand of the seamstress is very evident and they provide a window into the past. However, the textiles are stained, worn, and fragile from 50 years of display and inherent stress due to their age.
Lexington Historical Society strives to interpret 1775 with as much accuracy as possible, and having artifacts of the period in the museums brings history to life. They engage visitors and help them to understand the daily lives and struggles of those who fought for American independence. The Coby Foundation’s generous grant will enable these unique and important bed hangings to continue to tell its tale for years to come.
-Stacey Fraser, Collections and Outreach Manager & Erica McAvoy, Executive Director
The Coby Foundation, Ltd., located in New York City, funds projects in the textile and needle arts field. Its funding is limited to non-profit organizations in the Mid-Atlantic and New England. The Foundation was established in 1994 by Irene Zambelli Silverman in honor of her mother, Irene Meladakis Zambelli. Mrs. Silverman described her mother as “the finest needlewoman in New York.” Since it began its grant making in 2002, the Foundation has awarded more than $5 million to over 170 projects. https://cobyfoundation.org/
Featuring the voices of Lexington Historical Society permanent staff and occasional guest authors.